In culinary terms, a vegetable is an edible plant or its parts, intended for cooking or eating row.
Edited by Ho Dinh Hai Long An - Vietnam Updated: 08/04/2014
1- Introduction to Vegetables
1.1- General In biological terms, "vegetable" designates members of the plant kingdom. The non-biological definition of a vegetable is largely based on culinary and cultural tradition. In culinary terms, a vegetableis an edible plant or its part, intended for cooking or eating raw. Vegetables are most often consumed as salads or cooked in savory or salty dishes, while culinary fruits are usually sweet and used for desserts, but it is not the universal rule. Therefore, the division is somewhat arbitrary, based on cultural views. For example, some people consider mushrooms to be vegetables even though they are not biologically plants, while others consider them a separate food category; some cultures group potatoes with cereal products such as noodles or rice, while most English speakers would consider them vegetables. Some vegetables can be consumed raw, while some, such as cassava, must be cooked to destroy certain natural toxins or microbes in order to be edible. A part from vegetables, other main types of plant food are fruits, grains and nuts. A number of processed food items available on the market contain vegetable ingredients and can be referred to as "vegetable derived" products. These products may or may not maintain the nutritional integrity of the vegetable used to produce them.
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1.2- Etymology The word vegetablewas first recorded in English in the early 15th century from Old French, and was in origin applied to any plant. This is still the sense of the adjective "vegetable" in biological context. The word is taken from Medieval Latinvegetabilis"growing, flourishing" (i.e. of a plant), a semantic change from a Late Latin meaning "to be enlivening, quickening", a derivation of the verb vegetare "enliven", which is derived from vegetus "to be alive, active" (related to vigor), in reference to the process of a plant growing. In 1767, the meaning of the term "vegetable" was specified to mean "plant cultivated for food, edible herb or root." The year 1955 noted the first use of the shortened, slang term "veggie". As an adjective, the word vegetable is used in scientific and technical contexts with a different and much broader meaning, namely of "related to plants" in general, edible or not - as in vegetable matter, vegetable kingdom, vegetable origin, etc. The meaning of "vegetable" as "plant grown for food" was not established until the 18th century.
1.3- Terminology There are at least four definitions relating to fruits and vegetables: 1- Fruit (botany): the ovary of a flowering plant (sometimes including accessory structures), 2- Fruit (culinary): any edible part of a plant with a sweet flavor, 3- Vegetable (culinary): any edible part of a plant with a savory flavor. 4- Vegetable (legal): commodities that are taxed as vegetables in a particular jurisdiction. In everyday, grocery-store, culinary language, the words "fruit" and "vegetable" are mutually exclusive; plant products that are called fruit are hardly ever classified as vegetables, and vice-versa. The word "fruit" has a precise botanical meaning (a part that developed from the ovary of a flowering plant), which is considerably different from its culinary meaning, and includes many poisonous fruits. While peaches, plums, and oranges are "fruit" in both senses, many items commonly called "vegetables"- such as eggplants, bell peppers, and tomatoes - are botanically fruits, while the cereals (grains) are both a fruit and a vegetable, as well as some spices like black pepper and chili peppers. Languages other than English often have categories that can be identified with the common English meanings of "fruit" and "vegetable", but their precise meaning often depends on local culinary traditions. For example, in Brazil the avocado is traditionally consumed with sugar as a dessert or in milkshakes, and hence it is regarded as a culinary fruit; whereas in other countries (including Mexico and the United States) it is used in salads and dips, and hence considered to be a vegetable.
A Venn diagram shows the overlap in the terminology of "vegetables" in a culinary sense and "fruits" in the botanical sense